Playing in the dirt is not as bad as our parents told us when we were kids.
In fact, it may actually help us increase our immunity, remove anxiety and cure depression.
Scientists discovered that there are actual antidepressant microbes in soil. Mycobacterium vaccae is found in soil, and activates the release of brain serotonin. Serotonin and dopamine are two chemicals that boost our immune system and keep us happy. Both Dopamine and Serotonin are neurotransmitters, chemical messengers in the brain. Dopamine affects your emotions, movements and your sensations of pleasure and pain. In the brain, Serotonin regulates mood, social behaviour, libido, sleep, memory, and learning. (source)
Interestingly, 95% of our serotonin is manufactured in the intestines, not the brain; therefore some experts consider serotonin a hormone as well as a neurotransmitter. When you are gardening, M. vaccae is on your skin when you have your bare hands in the soil, you inhale it when you breathe, or it gets into your bloodstream through a little cut perhaps. (source)
The effects of the soil bacteria were discovered accidently by oncologist Dr Mary O’Brien. She created a serum out of the M. vaccae bacteria and gave it to lung cancer patients to boost their immune system. She noticed that another effect of the serum was that the patients felt happier, more vital, and they suffered from less pain.
Building on this, researchers Dorothy Matthews and Susan Jenks administered M. vaccae to mice and performed behavioral tests. Jenks says, “What our research suggests is that eating, touching and breathing a soil organism may be tied to the development of our immune system and nervous system.” They found that not only were the mice less anxious, they showed improved cognitive function by navigating a maze twice as fast as the ones that did not eat the bacterium. Matthews states “It is interesting to speculate that creating learning environments in schools that include time in the outdoors where M. vaccae is present may decrease anxiety and improve the ability to learn new tasks.” (source)
This being said, it doesn’t mean for you to go outside and start eating dirt. However, consider spending more time outside; consider gardening. If you have your own backyard it would be perfect if you spend a couple of minutes per day walking barefoot.
We try to detach from Nature forgetting that we are Nature. We need to reconnect with the “home” that we sprouted from. Scientifically seen, or spiritually, Nature benefits our well being if we create harmonious balance.
Thumbnail Source: Uplift Connect;